Helping girls discover and chart their future
Mrs. Modupe Eka is an entrepreneur, consultant, model of human behavior, and president of Wiseup Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that engages girls in building their lives for a meaningful future.
Rarely do you meet people like Mrs. Modupe Eka, entrepreneur, consultant, model of human behaviour, and President, Wiseup Foundation. You may call Eka a foresighted businesswoman because she was one of the three businesses that started the production of sachet water; what we call ‘pure water’ today.
At the beginning, according to her, there were ‘three of us in the producing it.’ She called her own brand “Living water,” but was told by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to change the name because, according to the food and drug regulation agency, living water had some sinister connotation with a link to spiritualism. She changed the name to “Jesil Water,” which these days come in 19-litre bottle and produced in her personally owned factory.
At the moment however, Eka’s concern is the moulding of youths, the girl child, especially, she said in this humour-filled chat with The Guardian. “Wiseup is basically a call for the girl to sit up. Wiseup is an information-based organisation. We have noticed that a lot of people are either not happy or they feel disadvantaged.
“But we have seen that no matter how the girl child feels that she lacks the capacity to fulfill her dreams, that she always bears some qualities that can leverage a change. What the organisation does therefore, help her to discover those qualities.
“Fortunately, we have seen that once they get that help, realize the gift they bear within and know who they are, they always pick up from there.
“Wiseup is all about self-discovery,” she said, adding that an individual could only understand others when she knows who she is.
“In self-discovery are financial growth, conflict resolution and marital bliss,” she declares, adding that “We also teach wealth creation; we do not call it poverty alleviation because when people come to us, we start the programme with the route to self-discovery first. When that person has discovered the power to build her business, she is on the way to the creation of personal wealth.”
Wiseup started its services in 2009, she said. “We began by going to schools to teach skills like entrepreneurship, assertiveness. We where pushing the Nigerian dream. Fortunately, it was the same time that Governor Raji Fashola was pushing the Lagos dream which made it easier. But we ran into hitch because there were not enough volunteers and we did not know that there were so many schools in Lagos; we could not even cover our own local government.”
The solution was to start the Wiseup Centre where children could come to after school and work in churches where the foundation has reached out to many people, she observes adding, “My partner is a Pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church while I am a volunteer at my church, Daystar Christian Centre.”
Under the initiative is what she calls “Skills for After Now.” Under this programme, children in child labour are taught skills that can prepare them for self-dependence in the future. “We go round the communities to ask employers of domestic helps to release them so they can benefit through the programme. But there has been a bit of a problem with this because many employers do not want to release their house helps. The ones that hand them over appear to be unhappy with the result because the helps come back to them empowered.”
Wiseup teaches business skills, she said, noting that “Every poor man wants to make profit but is hindered because he does not know the principles of running a business. Skills acquisition is important to us. We believe in entrepreneurship because we have noticed that many people learn skills like hairdressing but then you still find them writing applications for job employment.”
Her organisation, according to her collaborates with international groups from time to time. “We have worked with Generation Enterprise, an international NGO which empowers youth and give young people money for startup. We have worked with Girls Helping Girls, another organisation in America.
“The American Embassy has worked with us and bought us equipment,” she says, adding that, “Wiseup is all about exposing the girl to the right mind set. We are passionate about women; they are shown that women are not trash when they come here. If women are empowered, there would be no basis for gender discrimination.”
The challenges, she says, remain the socio-cultural issues which she says have the woman to bow. “There is a passive acceptance for issues like child marriage, violence against women and even child prostitution. While we may not be able to do away with them completely, but with redefinition, we can see how we can move forward.”
Self-discovery should start early, she says, adding that with the Wiseup model of training, two years is the appropriate age to put the girl on that very important road, specifically for the crime of child rape, which appears to be common these days.
“We have decided that the right to teach the girl is when she is beginning to form sentences at the age of two years. Irrespective of your level of education, whatever is the crude name that you call the vagina, teach your daughter so she can identify it. Sexual predators lurk in the home; they may be the driver, uncle or someone who the child’s mother trusts. When he plays wrongly, your daughter would be able to say that ‘uncle so so is touching my t&t&’
“In our parent/child relationship programme, we have developed a game on how a child can open up to a parent because you still come across mothers who find it difficult to tell their daughters the fact of life.”
A relate counselor, Eka was a member of the panel of a public debate, recently where a young man said that a woman should submit to man because she is less intelligent. Eka frowned at the word submission. She explained to us that she believes in consensus and not in submission.
In counseling intending couples, she feels pained when she sees women who have missed the right qualities in their intended because they start sleeping together. “When you ask them why they were going into marriage, they would tell you ‘He is nice. He is just very nice.’
“He is nice’ would be the one who ‘forgets’ his purse at home so you pay, when you eat out.”